How to Future-Proof Your City for the Connected Vehicle Revolution

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Okay, so we still don’t have the flying cars we were promised, but at least Connected Vehicles (CVs) are coming. Is your community ready? Probably not. Are there things you can do now so that, when connected cars roll into town, you can make the most of them? Absolutely.

Car makers are already deeply entrenched in the CV trend. In 2017, Cadillac successfully tested a Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) interface in cooperation with the University of Michigan. Toyota and Lexus announced they will offer CV options to U.S. consumers starting in 2021. Volkswagen recently committed over $4 billion to the development of CV technology in its cars. Can other car makers be far behind?

Along with the auto industry’s research and investment, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is currently sponsoring CV pilot programs in several locations ,including Wyoming, Tampa and New York City.

Connected cars are a treasure trove of real-time data for city planners, traffic engineers, public works directors and other individuals tasked with increasing roadway safety. For example, emergency personnel can be dispatched to the scene of an accident without anyone having to call and report it. A pothole can be detected, and repair scheduled, within seconds of a driver rolling over it. Parking availability information can be beamed inside CVs, reducing the incidence of slow, space-seeking drivers who clog city streets. When it comes to preparing transportation infrastructure to integrate CVs, there is a lot of work to be done, but the benefits are many.

How do you prepare your city’s streets to reap the benefits of Connected Vehicles? Here are four important steps to take:


1. Consult with thought leaders

Reach out to cities that are already employing Smart Cities initiatives. Here are some examples:

  • San Francisco’s Open Data initiative, launched in 2009, supports Smart Cities initiatives that aim to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals and improve and increase public transportation service.
  • Los Angeles has already introduced smart parking to make the best use of space.
  • Columbus, Ohio won a $40 million federal Smart City Challenge grant to incorporate Smart City technology into its transportation network.
  • Detroit was the first city, in 2016, to implement a new, smart lighting system for its expressways.


2. Set specific goals; take specific steps

Envisioning desired outcomes is vital to the start of any project. “Where do we want to be?” “How do we get there?”

For Connected Vehicles to function, cities must have Smart City infrastructure in place, over which the vehicles can communicate with intelligent warning systems, other CVs and infrastructure.


While a Smart City network must be very large in scope and capacity, it’s advisable to start small when thinking of concrete outcomes. Seek input from individuals and businesses, as well as public officials, and identify one or two initiatives to tackle first. Is crosswalk safety a major concern in your community? Speeding in school zones? Right of way for emergency vehicles? After you’ve successfully addressed one or two problems with your Smart City network, you can scale up efficiently and confidently.

When it comes to the wireless network through which Smart Cities and Connected Vehicles do their magic, think big. Billions of bytes of data will need to flow seamlessly from one source to others without delay or interruption.


3. When building your network, don’t reinvent the wheel

Municipalities are well-stocked with experts in infrastructure and technology, but no one expects transportation officials to be on the cutting edge of the digital nuts and bolts of CV and Smart City technology. This is where public-private partnerships come in.

Wi-Fi networks and cloud computing are good building blocks for Smart City development, and the greatest expertise in both is in the private sector. Partner with private industry to build your network, leveraging companies in the world of information technology that live on the cutting edge.

Those that don’t innovate, don’t survive. With that type of experience, the private sector can supply much of the knowledge and manpower to get your Smart City network up and running. AT&T, Qualcomm and Cox Communications are just a few technology giants already working with cities to build and manage their Smart City networks.

Another important thing to be aware of when planning your network is the battle being fought regarding the type of technology used to relay data and alerts between vehicles and transportation infrastructure. The combatants are Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) and 5G cellular networks. There are many online sources that go into this duel in depth, but it’s advisable for city planners and traffic engineers to plan for CV systems that are compatible with both DSRC and 5G.


4. Secure funding for the transformation

In 2018, several federal grants were available for municipalities working toward Smart City goals:

  • Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA)
  • Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD)
  • Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act)
  • Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program (ATCMTD)

According to the 2019 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) budget, funds for more grants have been allocated for next year. For more information on applying for grants, see this helpful Safe Travels blog entry on the topic.

But federal grants will not supply all the dollars needed to make cities smart. Fortunately, there are other options. Raising taxes, while never a slam dunk, can help bridge the gap. Smart Cities can collect parking fees and fines for violations much more efficiently, as well as save on manpower.

Also, funding is another area perfect for public-private partnerships. Don’t neglect private funding. Communications companies will be willing to pay municipalities for access to driver data, as well as revenue from targeted advertising.


Connected Vehicles will be here before we know it. Getting ready for them is no small task. But cities that are prepared will begin reaping the benefits of CVs immediately. Drivers and pedestrians will be safer. Traffic congestion will go down. Costs will decrease while revenue collection increases. Most importantly, overall quality of life will improve — even without the flying cars we’re still waiting for.

Learn more about the exciting ways TAPCO is connecting proven safety solutions with Smart City and CV technology.

The TAPCO Connected Vehicle interface will upgrade new and existing AC- and solar-powered TAPCO Intelligent Warning Systems to integrate with Connected Vehicle-ready infrastructure. For more information on this exciting new offering, watch the short video below.

Brian Scharles, Sr.

TAPCO | Director of Technical Sales & Service

An industry veteran, Brian holds three transportation technology patents and has managed ITS and signal system designs, installation and maintenance for 25 years. He has experience integrating communication systems for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation fiber optic system starting in 1990 that are still in operation today.

Brian is a member of multiple industry organizations, including the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) WI and International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA), and has won many awards.

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